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Photographer's Note

The village of Melle in Deux-Sèvres is fortunate to have three Romanesque churches. Their construction took place between the end of the 11th century and the middle of the 12th century. This offers in a single place the ability to understand architectural evolution over this time.

The greatest of the three churches architecturally is acknowledged to be Saint Hilaire, whose picture is shown here. The other two are Saint Pierre and Saint Savinien.

Saint Hilaire is named for the first bishop of Poitiers, who died in 367. This church is the largest of the three and is also the only one still being used as a place of worship.

It was built in two stages: about 1090, and 1150. Its complex plan is designed in order to facilitate the frequent visit of the pilgrims on the road to Santiago di Compostella. A single nave with collateral leads to a transept bordered with absidioles, then to a choir with déambulatoire and radiating chapels. The site is skirted by banks of Béronne formerly crossed at this point using a ford.

The carved decoration is abundant. There are 282 Romanesque capitals representing musicians and monsters (Sagittarius, centaur, basil, dragons), and the hunting for wild boar. The southern gate is carved inside, whilst outside it depicts the saints of the Bible and the Fathers of the Church. The northern gate is surmounted by a rider in high relief, which is believed to symbolize the victory of Constantine I over the pagans.

The Saint-Hilaire church has been classified a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1998.

Most of the above was freely translated from the French Wikipedia article on Melle.

This picture is vertical stitch of two photographs; necessary in order to be able to adequately show the east and north façades of the church.

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Additional Photos by Stephen Nunney (snunney) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6168 W: 61 N: 17960] (80883)
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